Before returning to AT&T Park on Monday night, Ryan Vogelsong told reporters that this night would be as intense for him as a postseason start. As the free-falling Giants know better than anyone, Vogelsong has never lost a postseason start.
The fan favorite came back in black and yellow and won, pitching 5 2/3 innings in an 8-5 Pirates victory. The night was full of ovations and emotion, but ultimately for the Giants, it was yet another loss. They have dropped 19 of 28 since the All-Star break.
Vogelsong spent so many nights grinding through quality starts for the Giants, and his first inning back was no different. Two hits and a walk loaded the bases with two outs and a walk of Joe Panik brought a first run across. Vogelsong got out of that jam and avoided another run in the second when Starling Marte threw Trevor Brown out at the plate.
The Giants had two doubles and a single in the third but scored just one run. Hunter Pence was screaming toward home on Eduardo Nuñez’s single and Roberto Kelly put up a late stop sign; Pence was thrown out retreating to third. Vogelsong settled in from there, allowing the Pirates to catch up.
Matt Moore didn’t give up a hit in the first three innings but continued to battle walks. In the fourth, three consecutive singles loaded the bases. A four-pitch walk of Francisco Cervelli scored one and Gregory Polanco smoked a good curveball into right to give the Pirates a lead. With two outs and a runner on in the sixth, Polanco hit a fastball into the cove to put the Pirates up 5-2.
The Giants chipped away in an unfamiliar way. Nuñez and Denard Span homered in the sixth, ending Vogelsong’s night. The usually stoic right-hander stopped at the dugout steps and tipped his cap during a long standing ovation.
Vogelsong was still cooling down when the Pirates tacked on two more runs with three singles and a double, pushing the lead back to three. The Giants looked like they would get both runs back in the seventh when Nuñez hit a sinking liner to left-center with two on, but Andrew McCutchen came out of nowhere to make an inning-ending diving catch.
Starting pitching report: Moore has gone exactly six innings in all three of his Giants starts. After allowing six total hits in the first two, he gave up six hits and five earned runs Monday. That ended a run of eight straight quality starts, which was tied for the longest active streak in the majors.
Bullpen report: George Kontos was charged with two runs. He had allowed one earned in his previous 18 innings.
At the plate: Nuñez would have had a huge night if not for McCutchen. He had a nice one anyway, with a long homer and a double.
In the field: There were three highlight plays in the span of about 15 minutes. First, Pence tripped on the visiting bullpen mound as he chased a fly ball. He made the catch while lying on his back. Then Nuñez threw a runner out from his butt and another one from his knees.
Attendance: The sellout crowd gave Vogelsong two standing ovations, one as he took the mound and one as he left in the sixth.
Up next: Jeff Samardzija and his new curveball will face rookie hotshot Jameson Taillon.